With DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince touring the world this summer, we look at some of the DJ supremo’s post-Will Smith career highlights.
The duo comprised of DJ Jeff ‘Jazzy Jeff’ Townes and rapper Willard ‘The Fresh Prince’ Smith was one of the first mainstream hip hop acts. Along with contemporaries Public Enemy and Run DMC, Will Smith & DJ Jazzy Jeff proved that hip hop artists could sell millions of records. With hits like ‘Summertime’ and ‘Miami’, their massive sales figures showed that rap did not only cater to a niche audience. It was, in fact, a cultural force to be reckoned with.
The duo put out a string of hugely successful albums, and starred together in Will Smith’s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But Hollywood came calling for Smith, and the rapper went on to become the biggest movie star of all time. Luckily, DJ Jazzy Jeff has gone on to have a successful career of his own as one of the most respected disc jockeys of a generation. Here we run down some of the best moments of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s celebrated career for those not in the know.
1 – DJ Jazzy Jeff inspires alternative rap legends
Jeff’s productions may have been mainstream hits, but he ended up having a huge influence on alternative hip hop artists in the 2000s. Philadelphia rap trio Slum Village turned to Jeff to contribute his trademark scratching to a track on their seminal album, the alternative hip hop classic Fantastic Vol. 2. And in 2008, alt hip hop icons The Roots did the same for their political masterpiece Rising Down.
Clearly, these new school rappers and producers have a lot of respect for Jeff, both as the man who put Philadelphia hip hop on the map, and as the pioneer of the ‘transformer’ scratching technique.
2 – A Touch Of Jazz Productions helps launch Philadelphia talent
Jeff Townes knows how to pay respect to his hometown. That’s why he set up A Touch of Jazz Productions. A Touch of Jazz has taken many of Philly’s most promising young artists and given them a chance to shine. Some of A Touch of Jazz’s biggest success stories are smooth singer Musiq Soulchild, whose Aijuswanaseing was a big hit for the production group; and Jill Scott, whose debut Who Is Jill Scott? – Words and Sounds Vol. 1 kicked off one of the most acclaimed catalogues in neo soul history.
The production collective also helped Philadelphia producers James Poyser, Vikter Duplaix, Carvin Haggins, Andre Harris and Vidal Davis start their careers. A Touch of Jazz truly established Jeff as a talent scout with a keen eye, and a mentor and spiritual guide for hip hop’s next generation.
3 – DJ Jazzy Jeff launches ‘Playlist Retreat’ in 2015
Never one to stop nurturing new talent, DJ Jazzy Jeff held the first annual Playlist Retreat at his own home last summer. For the retreat, Jeff invited dozens of up and coming young producers and DJs to his mansion, to allow them to learn from each other and collaborate on new music. The result was the experience of a lifetime for these young artists, and an unrivalled opportunity to learn from their elders and their contemporaries.
4 – DJ Jazzy Jeff releases The Return Of The Magnificent
The follow-up to Jeff’s 2002 solo release, The Return of the Magnificent is the DJ’s true solo masterpiece. Unlike the first album in the series, this release was fully produced by DJ Jazzy Jeff, and it displays Townes’ signature scratching skills, as well as a superlative ability to craft sunny loops from selective samples.
Artists from every era of hip hop and r&b take up the mic on this album. From rappers Big Daddy Kane and C.L. Smooth to singer Raheem Devaughn. The album shows once and for all that DJ Jazzy Jeff is one of the genre’s greats.
5 – DJ Jazzy Jeff plays Barasti Beach, New Year’s Eve 2013
By many accounts, one of the DJ’s best performances. The New Year’s Eve show at Dubai’s exclusive Barasti Beach club was filled with energy as Jeff ushered in 2014 for the VIP guests. Jeff brought his A game to the event, using skills and song changes he’d honed throughout his storied career. To top it all off, the set saw a surprise guest appearance from the one and only Fresh Prince himself, who happened to be staying in the area. Will Smith took to stage to perform old favourite ‘Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It’ and the duo still had the spark and chemistry that brought them such great success when they started their careers.
With summer 2016 fast approaching, the whole world can look forward to fantastic performances from one of the greatest musical duos of all time in the very near future. Crowds around the globe will be gettin’ jiggy wit it once again.